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Thursday, June 8, 2023


First DREAMer deported under Trump

Youth Empowerment Alliance

Attendance at Youth Empowerment Alliance meetings has been lower than usual since President Trump took office, said YEA Vice President Maria Trevino-Rodriguez. | Courtesy of YEA

The deportation of the first DREAMer, or immigrant documented under an Obama-era law permitting two-year work permits, has brought a wave of anxiety to undocumented immigrants at the University of Houston.

The lawyers of 23-year-old Juan Manuel Montes allege that their client was the first recipient of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, to be deported under President Donald Trump on Feb. 17.  The case has not gone unnoticed by the Youth Empowerment Alliance, an immigrant-led UH student organization.

“It’s crazy,” said Maria Trevino-Rodriguez, the YEA vice president and a political science senior. “We’ve never seen such low attendance to our meetings for YEA … So, we do see this fear on campus to even say that you’re undocumented.”

According to the New York Times, Montes, who came to the United States at age 9, was deported to Mexico from Calexico, California, after he was detained by a U.S. Customs and Border protection officer. Montes said he left his wallet in his friend’s car and was unable to produce to the officer his ID or proof of DACA status.

Three hours later, he was back in Mexico, where he has lived since February.

Montes’s legal team and the Department of Homeland Security have differing accounts of what happened, according to the New York Times.

Montes said he was deported Feb. 17 and caught trying to re-enter the country Feb. 19. The DHS said it has no record of Montes being deported the first time, so when he was caught entering the country illegally Feb. 19, the DHS believed he had left the country without receiving permission to re-enter, as stipulated by DACA rules.

UH Law Center Immigration Clinic Director Geoffrey Hoffman said DREAMers are allowed to leave the country only under specific conditions like educational opportunities abroad or humanitarian needs.

If a person illegally re-enters the United States, the person is subjected to expedited removal from the country under section 235 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, which limits the person’s due process, Hoffman said.

“The statute is very strict with limited availability for judicial review,” Hoffman said in an email. “The due process allowed is usually limited to (1) being provided a credible fear interview and then placed in asylum-only proceedings before an immigration judge and/or (2) limited federal court review.”

The case could impact the approximately 800 DACA recipients, or DREAMers, who attend UH, Trevino said,.

“This guy — he had DACA,” said Trevino, who also lives in the United States under DACA. “He just didn’t have it on his body. There’s so many times where I forget my purse or I forget my wallet, and I literally have no identification on me. For that kind of situation to occur only shows that we need people to stand up right now.”

Montes’s deportation has caused contradictory statements to come from the Trump administration. The president told the Associated Press last Friday that DREAMers should “rest easy” about his immigration policies. But on Sunday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions told ABC News “everyone that enters the country unlawfully is subject to being deported.”

Matthew Wiltshire, a history senior who serves as president of the UH College Republicans and communications director for the Texas Federation of College Republicans, said what happened to Montes was an unfortunate situation made significantly worse by his attempt to illegally re-enter the country.

“The only thing I can say beyond that is that (the UH College Republicans) support the administration’s efforts to secure the border and enforce the laws of the country,” Wiltshire said.

Trevino, meanwhile, said routine happenings in most people’s day-to-day lives — like making a midnight run to Whataburger without an ID — are privileges that undocumented immigrants do not have.

“There are these very small privileges that people have that don’t realize an undocumented person’s whole life can be changed simply because of this one issue,” Trevino said.

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